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BRAVE JOHANNA INSPIRES ROBBIE TO JOIN CANCER FIGHT; Superstar goes on bone marrow register.

BIG-HEARTED pop star Robbie Williams is to sign up as a bone-marrow donor after a desperate appeal from a stricken Scots fan.

The singer pledged to join the battle against leukaemia after meeting 23-year-old Johanna MacVicar at one of his gigs.

Cancer sufferer Johanna roped him in after spelling out what's involved when she met him back-stage.

She said his involvement is "beyond her wildest dreams".

But yesterday Robbie admitted it was she who bowled him over - with her courage and determination.

He said: "If I can help save somebody's life this easily then count me in. Everybody should be doing it."

Pretty Johanna, from Bishopton, Renfrewshire, who will die unless she gets a bone- marrow transplant, alerted Robbie to the plight of leukaemia patients after a concert in Glasgow.

She told him that her life - and that of thousands of others - could lie in the hands of total strangers.

She said: "Young men hold the key to increased transplant operations.

"Yet there is a desperate shortage of young male donors - like Robbie."

Johanna added: "About 70 per cent of those on the Anthony Nolan Register are women and yet it has been proved that young, fit men can make better donors, increasing the chance of survival.

"I want those young guys who haven't thought about this to sit up and take notice of what Robbie Williams has to say.

"If it saves just one life, and it doesn't have to be mine, it will be worth all the effort."

Johanna was diagnosed with leukaemia when she was just 16 and has since fought a remarkable campaign to boost the numbers of donors across Britain by raising the profile of The Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust.

Robbie will now undergo a simple procedure to see whether his bone marrow matches Johanna's or that of another leukaemia sufferer.

He said: "I can't believe how easy it is to join the register.

"I sort of created my own fallacy that it would take major surgery, but since meeting Johanna she explained to me the process.

"Male donors between the ages of 18-40 are most needed and seeing as I'm 26, then I'm going to do what I have to.

"It's that easy that everyone should be doing it.

"On the occasions that I've met Johanna, I can tell that she is very loving and generous and that's all you need to be in order to help."

Johanna said she was "overwhelmed" when the star took such an interest in what she had to say.

She said: "He was so genuine that he took the shirt from his back and gave it to me, which I have decided should be auctioned in aid of the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust.

"Robbie is a remarkably down-to-earth guy with a heart of gold and I will be eternally grateful.

"Let's hope he can help me make a difference to the plight of anyone waiting for a bone marrow donor."

It costs the charity, which receives no government or lottery funding, pounds 10million a year to run at its current level.

Robbie's shirt - which he wore at the Glasgow gig - will go under the hammer at the Trust's Millennium Ball. Johanna added: "Robbie has literally given the shirt off his back - what would you be willing to do?

"I am fighting for my life and that of thousands of other people who deserve the chance to live.

"Nobody should die because there is no match for them on the register - but they are. Please help us to change that."

A spokesman for the Trust said: "Please help us at The Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust to save more lives.

"Become a volunteer donor if you can or make a donation to help us recruit someone else on to the Register.

"Every pounds 50 raised by the Charity enables us to add one new volunteer, fully tissue-typed to the Register.

"That's one more life that just might be saved by your generosity."

TO find out how to join the Register or make a credit card donation call the Trust's hotline on 0901 88 22 234 or visit it at www.anthonynolan.org.uk.
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Author:Disley, Jan
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Words:696
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